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Research Shows Workers Suffering More Burnout Now Than In Peak Of Pandemic

New research has shown that more employees are suffering from burnout now than at any point in history, including during the COVID-19 pandemic.

More burnout than ever

Workers around the world are more exhausted than ever, according to new research published last week.

As first reported by Bloomberg, more than 40% of people with desk jobs feel burned out at work, a pandemic-era high, according to a survey released by Future Forum, a research consortium backed by Salesforce’s Slack Technologies.

Interestingly, the pain caused by workplace stress seems particularly acute in Australia, where about half of the workers surveyed said they feel burned out at work, more than in any other country.

Economic uncertainty, fear of job cuts, and the increasing pressure to return to in-office work have added to workplace malaise, the Future Forum researchers said. Women and younger workers, in particular, reported struggling with burnout.

Just in recent weeks, two leading international politicians, Jacinda Ardhern (New Zealand) and Nicola Sturgeon (Scotland), have both cited burnout as a contributory factor in their decisions to step down from office.

Differences and similarities across the world

Regional pressures are also getting people down. In the UK, strikes have crippled the country as public-sector unions protest what they see as paltry pay increases. Japan’s government has asked firms there to help workers cope with the highest inflation since 1981.

Meanwhile, French citizens have taken to the streets to protest the government’s plan to raise the retirement age to 64 from 62, which could result in some concessions around working from home.

In the latest poll, conducted late last year, more than half of those who said they were dissatisfied with their level of flexibility also said they were burned out.
Employees with immovable work schedules are more than twice as likely to say they’ll definitely be looking for a new job over the next year. According to Brian Elliot, a Slack executive who oversees the Future Forum research,

“All the benefits of flexibility are about how you give people focused time, rather than sweating how many days of the week they are in. Flexibility also improves a company’s culture, and every time I tell executives this, it surprises them.”


In the United States, layoffs are mounting, and return-to-office policies are shifting from being recommended to required. However, workers there seem to feel slightly happier than their international counterparts. Only 41% of people surveyed in the US said they felt burned out at the end of last year, just shy of the 42% global rate and only a modest improvement from earlier in 2022.

What else does the survey show?

The Future Forum survey, which is conducted quarterly in the US, UK, Japan, Australia, Germany, and France – has found that pandemic-era workers with more freedom to choose where and when they work are usually more satisfied, productive, and less likely to quit.

It’s not just mandatory facetime that is stressing workers. Companies have thrown so much technology at employees that they may be getting overwhelmed. Large employers now use an average of 211 different apps, up from 195 last year, according to a separate survey from Okta, a cloud software company that tracks app usage.

A recent study, highlighted in Harvard Business Review, of 20 teams across three big employers found that workers toggled between different apps and websites 1200 times each day, leading to a “toggling tax” that can cost workers time, productivity, and peace of mind.


What do you think of the research findings? How have you found your workplace stress levels have changed over recent years? Tell us more in the comments.  


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